You might think dandelions are just an annoyance, but it’s time to change that belief. Don’t let them go to waste, as they offer a free source of an incredible range of benefits that can be used to benefit the body inside and out.
Dandelions may better be known as a weed to be stomped or sprayed out, but they’ve actually been used medicinally for centuries. The first reference of dandelions being used as a medicine was written back in the 10th and 11th centuries by Middle Eastern. In Wales, by the 13th century, many people were using the roots and leaves to treat a variety of ailments. Traditional cultures have used dandelion greens to support digestive and hormone health, and they were often consumed to support lactation and to help cure problems like urinary tract infections.
All parts of the dandelion are edible, offering medicinal and culinary uses. They can be harvested during any frost-free period of the year and eaten steamed, roasted, dried or even raw. Dandelions are loaded with antioxidants. They’re high in vitamin A in the form of the antioxidant carotenoid, otherwise known as beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C. They’re an especially good source of calcium and iron, along with a host of other minerals like copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. They contain more protein per serving them spinach, with the greens themselves providing all essential amino acids. Plus, the roots contain inulin and luteolin, which are known to help regulate blood sugar as well as taraxacin which aids in stimulating digestion.
So beyond that, why should you start picking dandelion greens and saving them, rather than tossing them out?
1. It’s free food
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but in this case, you can easily get dandelion greens to enjoy for free. In fact, there’s a good chance you have them in your own yard, or at least in public areas around you. They’re best in the spring, before the plants begin to flower. If you’re one of the few that don’t have them, plant the seeds so you can cultivate them and enjoy a steady supply.
One important thing to keep in mind is that you should never harvest your dandelions from areas that have been treated with pesticides, or from industrial lots that could be contaminated with heavy metals or other pollutants.
2. Improving your complexion
Thanks to its magnesium and zinc content as well as its potential ability to support detoxification, dandelion greens are great for improving your complexion and supporting healthier skin. If you suffer from acne, applying the juice of dandelion greens to affected areas can help to inhibit microbial infections and reduce pimples and other acne-related issues. As it contains a high amount of vitamin C, it can also help speed healing while reducing inflammation.
As dandelion greens are considered a diuretic, they encourage a higher amount of urine to be passed to help cleanse the body of toxins, which also supports a more beautiful complexion.
3. Fighting skin infections
In addition to clearing acne and supporting a more beautiful complexion, that milky white substance that you see when you break a dandelion stem can also help to fight a skin infection. That’s because it’s not only highly alkaline, it offers fungicidal and germicidal properties. You can use it to help relieve the symptoms of a number of skin conditions, including the irritation and itching of eczema, psoriasis, and ringworm.
4. Relieving indigestion and bloating
Many people use dandelions to relieve digestion-related problems like bloating, upset stomach and constipation. In Native American and Chinese medicine, the greens have been used for this purpose for thousands of years.
Certain components of dandelion, primarily its high levels of dietary fiber, make it beneficial for digestive health. Dietary fiber helps to stimulate more healthy bowel movements by adding bulk to stools and also lessens chances of constipation and diarrhea. By regulating healthy bowel movements, it can also prevent more serious gastrointestinal issues. As it offers gentle soothing effects, it’s often prescribed for children who are battling constipation.
All of that fiber also brings other benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, kidney stones, and obesity.
One of the best ways to use dandelion for supporting better digestion is to make a dandelion tea. Do so by pouring one cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried dandelion leaves. Keep in mind that it can have laxative effects so it’s best to try it out while you’re at home if you haven’t had it before. It’s likely to have a number of positive effects, however, including brightening and clearing up your complexion as mentioned previously.
5. Soothing aching joints and muscles by making a dandelion bath
Using dandelions externally can not only improve the beauty and health of your skin, but it can soothe aching joints and muscles by turning them into a bath oil.
To make a dandelion bath oil, you’ll need to pick enough dandelion blossoms to fill one glass container. Once it’s full, pour some extra-virgin olive oil over them until they’re completely covered. If you’d like, you can also add dried lavender flowers which offers a lovely and relaxing lavender scent. Carefully poke the mixture to remove air bubbles using a wooden handle of a utensil or a chopstick. Cover the container with a breathable lid such as a coffee filter or woven cloth, and use a rubber band to secure it. Place the container in the sun and allow it to steep for at least two weeks. Strain and store in a cool, dark place.
6. Lowering blood pressure
If you tend to have high blood pressure, dandelions can help get it back on track. Its diuretic properties which help to increase urination frequency and quantity is believed to be behind this ability, in addition to its high level of potassium, which is well-known for reducing blood pressure numbers.
7. Supporting liver health
Dandelion greens have been used for centuries by many different cultures to support healthy liver functioning as well as natural detoxification. The liver produces bile, which helps enzymes in the body break fats down into fatty acids, as well as to detoxify and filter the blood. This amazing organ can synthesize and metabolize fats and cholesterol break down and store amino acids, store glucose and regulate internal functions.
The powerful nutrients in dandelions help to cleanse the liver to keep it working like it should. Additionally, they aid the liver (and entire digestive system) by helping to maintain the proper flow of bile.
8. Normalizing blood sugar and improving cholesterol levels
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, preliminary animal studies have suggested that dandelions may help in normalizing blood sugar levels as well as to reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL, the “good” cholesterol. While the researchers noted that these studies were conducted on mice, they believe dandelions may have the same effect for humans, though more research is needed to definitively determine that. A number of other animal studies have also shown that dandelions may help fight inflammation, something that’s at the root of multiple diseases and illnesses.
Dandelions are believed to help keep blood sugar levels stable in those with diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas. If the pancreas doesn’t produce the right amount of insulin, or if the cells can’t properly process the insulin, diabetes results. As glucose isn’t being properly utilized, it tends to accumulate in the bloodstream, resulting in higher blood sugar levels.
Drinking dandelion tea as directed for digestive health, is a great way to normalize your blood sugar and cholesterol levels too.
9. Preventing urinary tract infections
If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection or UTI, you know how painful and frustrating they can be. That’s just another reason you should really be picking and saving those dandelion leaves. Drinking dandelion tea can help prevent those infections, as well as kidney problems and bladder disorders. Dandelion helps due to its ability to increase the flow of urine, which helps get rid of the infection.
10. Strengthening bones
Dandelions contain more than 500 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin K, an essential fat-soluble vitamin which has a key role in both heart and bone health. They say many of us are lacking vitamin K, so drinking a homemade dandelion tea or eating the greens, is a great way to prevent that. Vitamin K is the primary vitamin in blood clotting and bone mineralization. Experts say that it’s even better for building bones than calcium, plus it’s known to help maintain proper brain functioning and a healthy metabolism.
There has been an increasing amount of evidence, including a study out of Castle Medical Center in Hawaii, that shows vitamin K can lower the risk of bone fractures and improve bone health, particularly in postmenopausal women who are at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Dandelions also contain calcium, offering 10 percent of the recommended daily value. It’s stored in the structure of the bones and teeth, and in addition to building bones, it’s used for muscle contraction, blood clotting, hormone secretion and nerve transmission. A diet that includes dandelions can help you avoid a calcium deficiency, tooth decay, and muscle tension.
11. Reducing cancer risk
As dandelions are high in antioxidants like vitamin C and luteolin which are known to reduce free radicals (a major risk cancer risk) in the body, it can even help lower your risk of developing cancer. Its ability to detox the body further helps to protect one from the development of tumors, as well as a variety of cancers. Luteolin plays a powerful role in this as it poisons the essential components of cancer cells when it binds to them, virtually rendering them ineffective and unable to reproduce. This has most notably been demonstrated in studies on prostate cancer, though research continues to be done.
12. You can make a dandelion superfood smoothie
If you pick dandelion greens, you can use them for a number of powerfully nutritious foods, in addition to a tea, including smoothies. Although dandelions have a bitter taste, by adding them to a smoothie you can get all of their benefits and enjoy a sweet, delicious taste without the bitterness. Add them to your own recipe, or just add these ingredients to your blender: 1 to 2 cups chopped dandelion greens, 1 banana, ½ cup frozen strawberries, ½ cup frozen pineapple chunks, a couple of thinly sliced, peeled pieces of ginger root and 1 ½ cups coconut water. Blend until smooth and enjoy!
13. Or, put together a tasty dandelion salad
Tired of the usual lettuce leaf salad? Use dandelion greens instead. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to derive dandelions’ wonderful health benefits is to eat the wilted leaves with extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Of course, you can add them to any of your favorite salads, or toss together dandelion greens, red onion, and tomatoes in a medium-sized bowl; season with basil, salt, and pepper.